I remember that the best review I think I’ve given was published when I was working (and having to chase after payment) for the UKs Comics World magazine back in the nineties. Story wasn’t good. Art was lousy. but the actual fun the person had writing and drawing it just seeped off of the page and to the reader.
In 1988, Alpha Omega Potter (seriously, his real name) was based in a little place called Wolverhampton, in the West Midlands.
In The Alpha Omega Collection editorial (cover date August, 1988), Potter writes:
“I remember the day exactly when I discovered “Superheroes”. It was the last day of term in my Junior School. Those children who had a perfect track record for attending school, with few days off, were rewarded with the magnificent sum of 30p (in those days a lot of money, for me anyway). I walked into a newsagents not knowing exactly what to buy, and there he was. A big green man, who fascinated me. I picked up the comic and read his name. “The Incredible Hulk.” I was captivated with the monster, and my enthusiasm to learn more of the world of Superheroes grew. So you can see my childhood favourite was the Hulk. But, my true ultimate, mega-favourite has always been (ever since I was four years of age) the Dark Knight…Batman. I’ve had my set backs in building my collection of comics in the early days, especially by my sisters. They’d burn them out (sic) of revenge for arguements which they had lost.
“Then, in 1977, a friend of mine told me he’d made his own comic book. I asked to see. He showed me. It was in the ine of the Beano, with his own characters. So I did the same. The thing is though, most of my stories ended with a cliff-hanger. I only did one issue: comedy back then was not my strong point. In comic book form thatis. It wasn’t until a year later, 1978, that I started doing proper superhero material. The story goes, I had…er…borrowed some drawing paper from school and was sitting in my room wondering what to do with it all, then it hit me. Marvel Matchstick Heroes. Yep. I started drawing my favourite Marvel Superheroes in my own matchstick form. They started looking like the conventional form: I did over fifty different stories simply for my own pleasure. The stories were my own, and I gained one reader, mt former teacher, who found my work very interesting.
“Then one day I picked up my pencil in order to doodle, but what I drew was the front cover of The Ace, who back then was in his own comic magazine. It was not a matchstick form, but in a professional manner, or so I thought at the time. The story was crude and saimple, nothing like it is today. The art work, well the word I used to describe it can’t be printed, so rubbish will have to do. I’d completed three issues plus one annual. Many of my main characters were created in the summer of that year, and their stories are still strong in my memory. It was then I started to dream about running my own comic magazine company. From this dream grew a determined and firm ambition to make this a reality.
“Over the years since leaving school, I have developed my talent. Often, I’d create and complete a full length adventure with a new Superhero on the spur of the moment. I’ve been on various Training Schemes and had spells of unemployment and this has made me more determined to see my dream through to reality. Even though at times I have met many people who have tried to discourage me from this.
“Over the years I have become my own worst critic: after I had sent one of my creations to 2000 AD’s Editor. He told me to study the figures more. Then I looked and saw I needed a lot of improvement. So off to college I went and studied the human body. There I started to develope my own style, which I’m still developing. But this depends on the mood of the character.
“Well the dream has become a reality. I have faith in the fact that my Superheroes will be to your liking. The collection will introduce all these Superheroes to you, and you will meet the characters again in future issues. But, for the time being, I’ll just stick with the four stories I’ve put in this comic. Now “You” will get to choose who you want to see in a regular series. ”
When you read that introductory editorial you are reading the story of countless others, not just in the UK, but around the world. And you are also reading how many of those youngsters set about making their dreams come true (Hey -my literary potential was noted and encouraged by my English teacher at Greenway Boys School).
But did A. O. Potter achieve what he hoped was a style of his own good enough to compete with other comics on retailers shelves? Judge yourself:
from the Alpha Omega Collection no.1
No. But, and it is a major “but”, the one thing Potter achieved was the spread his enthusiasm and fun from the printed page to the reader. One fan was the now vanished Lee Davies of the Mondo zine. Another fan was yours truly and via my collection one Benjamin R. Dilworth.
Ben was on one of his visits to Bristol when he pointed at my copy of the Alpha Omega Collection -”Ah-ha! You’ve bought it, too!” I think we bought copies of all three books and we even individually sent in designs for Potter’s “design a costume for Dragona competition”; not to win the competition but to show that maybe he needed two budding comic hacks to help him draw future issues!
One move after another and I’m sorry to say I no longer have half my Dilworth correspondence and not the Dragona costume design that was quite cool.
But, how exactly did Potter get the money to print a 60 pager in 1988? I knew how expensive printing was and Ben said “I think he’s got onto some Government scheme?” As it turned out, like one Paul Ashley Brown, Mr. Potter had gotten onto the Prince’s Trust which, in the 1980s, awarded grants.
A. O. Potter had gotten himself an offset printer.
Now, I ordered a copy of issue 2 of the Alpha Omega Collection (below) and before you think I’ve really treated the comic badly -that’s how it arrived. Same stick label used to address the envelope stuck on the cover and partly torn off. Oh, and a cigarette burn hole! I wrote back and got an apology and was told a new copy was on its way. I never got that copy.
That was it.
It was the last I, Dilworth or anyone else ever heard of Alpha Omega Potter. He vanished it seems.
Alright, the art was not great but it was fun -as were the stories- and I can only assume the grant ran out. Today we have print on demand so buying in printing ink, paper and the other printing odds and sods aren’t needed.
What happened to Potter? Has he continued to draw? Did he just decide that it was a pipe-dream and quit? I hope not. I’d like to think that somewhere in the West Midlands A. O. Potter is still drawing comic strips and developing his style but it has been over twenty years.
I take each Small Press or Independent comic that comes to me individually. I never say “this isn’t as slick as a Marvel or DC comic.” I try to look at each book as an individual item created by a writer and artist or writer-artist. I try to look past flaws, though I do note them and offer any suggestion to help overcome them.
There are many, many A. O. Potters out there all dreaming the dream. Very few, perhaps, 2% make it into published comics. Many work in the Small Press for fun. It doesn’t matter if they do not become big comic stars. What matters is that they enjoy what they are writing and drawing. If they say “Hey, I’m never gonna work for Marvel or DC but what the hey!” but continue because they love the medium then I say “Go for it, baby!”
Very, very few people in comics get rich -I had my days of no food for five days or just surviving on toast or boiled cabbage (!). I had my faqir share of “red letter bills” and trotting around to publishers in all sorts of weather. I’m not the only one.
I like to think that out there, in Cardiff, Newcastle, Birmingham, London, New York, Los Angeles, Topeka, Greenville, Berlin, Bonn, Paris, Brussels -all over the world, there are plenty of A. O. Potters working away and dreaming the dream.
Bless you all and I really hope that, even if you do not become a comic star,, you at least enjoy what you do.
Never lose the dream